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Minotauros fall in shootout to St. Cloud 3-2

Ryan Ladika/MDN Cade Stibbe entered Thursday night's game as the Minotauros' leading scorer with 30 points (12 goals) in 42 games this season. Pictured from Minot's April 22 contest.

Looking to put a two-game losing streak in the rear-view mirror, the Minot Minotauros squandered a late third-period lead en route to falling 3-2 to the St. Cloud Norsemen in a shootout at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex Thursday night.

On the penultimate day of the month, the Minotauros met their division rival Norsemen for the 12th and final time this season, having prevailed in just five of the previous 11 games between the two squads. Minot entered the contest looking to snap a two-game skid against St. Cloud and earn their first win against the Norsemen since their 5-4 victory April 2.

Keenan Rancier took his place between the pipes for the Minotauros once more, putting his 5-2-1 record against St. Cloud on the line. The Minotauros netminder brought a .913 save percentage in 38 games this season into Thursday’s start, allowing just over 3 goals per game.

The usually-solid Victoria, British Columbia native had experienced a shaky last few weeks of play, earning the win in only three of his nine starts since March 19 while allowing 36 goals in that span. Rancier was opposed in net by Paxton Geisel, bringing an .896 save percentage into his 34th appearance of the season.

St. Cloud made early headway on a potential 21st win of the season, when Chase Freiermuth led a charge into the Minot zone and snuck the puck past Rancier’s right skate, giving St. Cloud an early 1-0 lead on his sixth goal of the season just 95 seconds into the contest.

Minot dialed up an emphatic response, scoring two goals the remainder of the period to take a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission. Tyler Kostelecky got the offensive display started with a score four minutes and 57 seconds into the first frame. He received a pass from Cade Stibbe from behind the net and flicked the puck past Geisel from just in front of the left side of the crease to tie the game.

The goal was Kostelecky’s 16th of the year, and second in his last three games as well as his fourth point in his last five contests. Stibbe’s 19th assist extended his grasp on the team lead in points with his 31st of the season, and Jay Buchholz also added his 14th helper of the campaign.

The Minotauros were held in check the remainder of the first frame, but added a second tally in the last two minutes of the period. Geisel found himself a little too far out of his crease to the left side, and Logan Anderson ripped a pass across the offensive zone to the right to a waiting Ethan Schmunk.

The forward, skating back from behind the net tipped the puck into a wide-open net to give Minot a 2-1 lead with only one minute and 12 seconds remaining in the frame. He recorded his ninth goal of the season on the play, and Anderson his 11th assist. When the horn sounded for the first intermission, the Minotauros led 2-1 and outshot St. Cloud 13-9.

The second period was played to a stalemate, as Rancier turned aside all 13 shots he faced, but St. Cloud potted the equalizer a little over halfway through the third period. Evan Murr unleased a long wrist shot from just inside the blue line that found its way through quite a bit of traffic on its way past Rancier 10 minutes and 49 seconds into the final 20 minutes.

An eventful overtime yielded no goals, and Minot potted only one goal in three attempts in the shootout round. Jack Suchy tied the shootout up at one goal apiece, and Ryan O’Neill flicked the game-winner past Rancier.

Minot will need to recover from the tight loss rather quickly, as the club is scheduled to face off against the Austin Bruins at Riverside Arena Friday evening at 7:05 p.m.

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